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How art can help kids manage stress


How art can help kids manage stress

From their earliest years, children experience a wide range of stressors.
Whether due to exams at school, moving to a new home or some other challenge, part of growing up is learning how to deal with stress and other emotions.
For some children, art can be a great way to express themselves and cope in a healthy way.
“I encourage my patients to use art as an outlet to work through and manage whatever stress or anxiety they’re feeling,” says Dr. Jill Aiken, a pediatrician at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach. When she went through the loss of her first husband about 30 years ago, she found art to be an effective way to process her grief. To this day, she uses art to help manage stress and anxiety.
Here are three ways art can help children manage stress:

1. A way to communicate

Sometimes children don’t have the words to describe how they’re feeling, or they could be afraid to articulate something.

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Giving children crayons or paint and paper can help them better communicate their emotions, Dr. Aiken says. Parents, in turn, can use the child’s art to start conversations that allow the child to process his or her feelings more effectively.
“Sometimes all you need is just a little starting place,” Dr. Aiken says.

2. Processing big feelings

Art can give children an outlet to process things they don’t know how to feel about.
Dr. Aiken likens painting to journaling — a way to get the feelings and thoughts out and make sense of them.
“Instead of just sitting there worrying about something and rolling it over in your mind, you do something with it that’s productive,” she says.

3. A sense of control – and calm

Working on a drawing or piece of art can give children a sense of control but also a distraction. The same way that art can help people dive into big or difficult feelings, it can be a way to calm down.
When Dr. Aiken first began using art as a form of stress relief, she painted beaches and marshes – places where she felt at peace – or memories that brought her joy. She encourages patients who don’t know where to start to try drawing something that would make them feel better.
“When you focus on your art, you really can’t focus on anything else. All you can think about is the figure you’re drawing,” she says. “And I wish that more people knew that power.”
If you think your child may be struggling with anxiety, don’t hesitate to talk to the child’s pediatrician or other qualified provider for help and guidance.

Dr. Jill Aiken, a board-certified pediatrician, practices at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach.

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